tv Dateline NBC NBC January 27, 2012 10:00pm-11:00pm PST
they just disappear. all of a sudden they're gone. and for the last time i saw my best friend. i think it all points to this guy, the man with many names. >> they were newlyweds when they vanished. also gone, the charming mystery man who s their tenant. >> the guy just shows up out of nowhere, taking advantage of people. manipulative. >> an englishman, an aristocrat, or so he said. >> he told the church here that he'd bought a castle in england and he wanted to ship it over
here brick by brick. >> nearly a decade later, a skeleton found in the backyard. who was it? and where was that charismatic tenant? >> wherever he went, he told lie after lie after lie. >> then a bombshell. >> when i saw it in the newspaper, i knew that was him. >> tonight, dramatic new evidence in the case of the man who called himself clark rockefeller. >> the wife says, chris, there's a blood stain on this rug. and he rolls it up immediately and takes off. >> was the con man also a killer? >> i never hurt anyone. >> mike taibbi with "buried secrets." welcome to "dateline," everyone. i'm lester holt. they were a young couple just starting their lives together. like so many newlyweds starting their careers. then they vanished. they were listed as missing, no reason to suspect foul play until an eerie discovery tied to
a case that made headlines on two continents and linked to the name of one of america's most famous families. here's mike taibbi. captions paid for by nbc-universal television >> reporter: each step down the driveway brought her closer, a rookie detective's first glimpse of murder. >> that's for a human being not acceptable for anybody. >> reporter: it began oy man 5th 1994. >> an officer had gone out on a call. and they said they discovered a body. >> reporter: tricia guff was the first on the scene. she was told a construction crew had been digging a hole to put in a pool and that about four feet down their back hoe had snagged on plastic bags. inside those bags something that shocked them. bones. >> a lot of the workers were standing around. they seemed very upset by it. >> reporter: she jumped down into the hole to take a closer look. >> we saw some white material,
we saw plastic, and then we saw the skull off to the side. >> reporter: it was a human skeleton cut into three sections, wrapped in plastic bags and stuffed into a fiberglass box. but who's skeleton and how long had it been there? such a ghoulish scene was the last thing anybody would expect in swanky san marino. it was something out of a movie. >> people have a lot of money. they're engaged in the xhoort. >> reporter: but as a thousand movie melodramas, under the surface there was something violent, something police needed to investigate. >> we had to shut it down, tape it off and started getting witness statements. >> reporter: the detectives' first breakthrough came quickly, a tip from her sergeant. >> you know, i took a missing person report at this address a few years back. >> reporter: the detective pulled the missing persons case file. inside she found a paper trail documenting the story of the
people who had lived there ten years before. in the main house there was dee dee, an ageing debutante, her son john, whom she doted on and his bride linda, of whom dee dee was said to be jealous. living out back was an englishman, recent arrival to san marino. >> it seemed to be a chaotic, unhappy household. strange circumstances. >> reporter: there was one other name that kept appearing in the file, the newlywed's best friend sue kaufman. she had long suspected something ugly happened in that house. >> there's foul play of some kind, somehow. >> reporter: sue kaufman met linda in eighth grade. they bonded over hors. >> we would put them in halter, in saddle. we would dress them in dressage. anything. >> reporter: after high school, sue had watched linda get caught up in another kind of fantasy. linda had scored a job in los angeles' largest science fiction bookstore. >> she was in a world that was
always moving, always vibrant. >> reporter: it was a world of anything goes. a world of leather-clad space vixens and intergalactic travel. a world where linda's size, 6 feet tall, didn't seem so unexpected. what did seem unexpected at the time was the man she chose to fall in love with, shy johnny sohus, with coke bottle glasses. >> very doting of her, very loving of her, even though she didn't reciprocate that much. but i knew she liked having him around. >> reporter: the unlikely couple married in 1983, on halloween, appropriately. short on rent money they decided to move with their six cats into the house owned by john's mother. >> looked gorgeous on the outside. nice, pretty house. but when you went inside, it was just nasty in there. >> reporter: linda told her friends that john's mother would bang on the newlywed's bedroom door in the middle of the night. >> linda was kind of like just stay away from her. we don't talk to her. she's just annoying. >> reporter: it was a dark
beginning to a marriage, but even though john and linda did seem happy. linda had always dreamed of being an artist. and by the start of 1985, her technicolor paintings were getting noticed. >> she had an art show, her first real public art show. >> reporter: as for john, he was getting some computer work, too. while they weren't making a fortune, it was enough for a down payment on a new truck that they showed off one night for close friend sue kaufman. >> this was an accomplishment. we're reel people. >> reporter: it would be an important part of the puzzle later on, but it let the struggling couple envision a future away from that unhappy house. one evening the three friends sat in the truck making plans to take a road trip together. >> we were all very excited about it and we were planning it. >> reporter: a few weeks later linda called sue out of the blue to say that she and john were headed to new york. she said he landed a top secret government job and needed to sign some paperwork. >> and they want me, too.
and i thought that was odd. it was like why would the government want you? what do you know? and you can draw unicorns. >> reporter: it sounded so far-fetched. sue wasn't sure she believed linda, but she knew her friend wouldn't let her down, she'd be back in time for her road trip. except she wasn't. except she never showed. >> just disappeared. off the face of the earth. forever as far as i could tell. >> reporter: linda never came home. never went back to work at the book store. never completed the painting someone had already paid for. it didn't make sense to sue. >> she just wasn't a person that should just leave, just leave it all and blow it all off. that's when i said to myself, this is becoming more and more wrong every time something transpires. >> reporter: and now, nearly ten years after linda and john had disappeared, a skeleton had been discovered just yards from the house. >> we immediately assumed that it was going to be a homicide. >> reporter: police stood watch through the night waiting for
the careful removal of the skeletal remains of a body still buried in the backyard, but whose body? had linda been found at last? coming up -- the missing couple and that mysterious mission. the young husband's mother says she knew all about it. >> she goes, i have a source who is giving me all this information about where they are, what they're doing. >> who was that source? and what did he know? ♪ me and you ♪ ♪ a little rendezvous ♪ ♪ that special something ♪ ♪ that will carry you through ♪ ♪ that little reward ♪ ♪ for all the things you do ♪ [ female announcer ] luscious, creamy filling -- perfectly combined with our intense slow-melting chocolate -- the one and only ghirardelli squares chocolate. for all the
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unearthed in the backyard of an old house. a young detective wondered if it had anything to do with the disappearance of two newlyweds nearly ten years before. she started reading through the case file assembled by police back then. >> they had done interviews at that time, but now it takes on a more sinister air. >> reporter: back in february 1985, linda sohus had told friends that unbelievable story that she and her husband john had been head hunted by the government for a secret mission and needed to go to new york to sign some paperwork. when sue kaufman didn't hear from them for a few weeks, she called linda's mother-in-law didi to find out where they were. >> she goes, oh, they're in paris. i'm like paris, california? no, paris, france. and i'm like, what? >> reporter: as time passed linda's sister kathy jacoby was worried, too. she was sure linda would be too excited to keep the details of a trip to paris a secret. no, something else was going on.
>> initially i was angry and i felt like i need to find out what happened so i can be angry at her. >> reporter: but her anger turned to concern when she got a call from the cat hotel where linda had boarded her six beloved cats. the manager said linda hadn't picked them up and they would soon be euthanized. >> she would have come back for her pet. i know it. that's when i went to the police. >> reporter: kathy called the san marino police, asking them to go check on the couple. but when police dropped by the house, john's mother didi turned them away. reporter mark seal. >> she was adamant that they had gone on this mission for the u.s. government, and that's where they were. she goes, i have a source who is giving me all this information about where they are, what they're doing. and he's asking me to send their mail to this place in north carolina. >> reporter: a secret source keeping tabs on the couple? well, maybe that was how the missing couple finally got the message that their friends and family were worried about them
because a few weeks later postcards arrive from paris. >> when i first saw the postcard, because i'd heard the thing about paris, i thought, linda. so i turn it over, she's kind of like, i miss new york, but this can be lived with. >> reporter: sue thought she recognized her friend's hand writing, but it didn't stop her worrying. the flippant tone of the card seemed out of character. >> if you've just been uprooted and left your cats and left your whole life, you are not going to write this little bitty one half of a sentence. you're just not. >> reporter: so there it was, an indication, anyway, that the couple was okay. sue kaufman says that's when the cops seemed to lose interest. >> they were like, well, she's over 21. if she doesn't want to come back, she doesn't have to. nobody's going to make her. and i kind of went, i felt so sad at that. >> reporter: and now nine years later sue kaufman was talking to yet another set of investigators about her friend, a skeleton had been found buried in the backyard of john sohus' childhood home.
was it him or could it be sue's best friend, linda? >> we had the sifters out there. we're going through for trace evidence. >> reporter: the yard now resembled and archaeological dig. investigators searching for every shard of bone, every scrap of evidence. >> somebody had died and it's your responsibility to get some justice for them. >> reporter: the skeleton was transported to the body room at the l.a. county coroner's office. it was there that the plastic bags were removed and the body laid out piece by piece. detective gough saw right away that from the skeleton's size and clothing, it couldn't be linda. >> it appeared to be the same physical dimensions as john. and just the way the clothing was. it was similar to how john dressed, you know, jean, plaid red shirt. >> reporter: now it was official. what had been a missing persons case had now become a homicide investigation. and in 1994, this is what investigators knew. three people had lived in that crumbling house with its
shuttered windows and stained walls. john sohus had been buried in the backyard, his wife linda was missing, and his mother, who was said to have raged at their marriage was now dead. but the old woman had left behind one clue to the mystery. it was there in the case file. didi sohus had made her own panicked phone call to police. pasadena star news editor frank girardot girardot. >> i need to you find my son and his wife. they've been gone for four months, and they hadn't heard from them. >> reporter: this is a change from what she told the police prior to that time. >> big change. >> reporter: what had changed her mind? well, she said that her secret source, the one who had been feeding information to her about john and linda's covert mission, had vanished, and he'd taken the couple's truck with him. >> it just takes on a whole other arena of questions without answers. >> reporter: investigators now needed to take into account one
more person, didi's secret source. who was he? and if he could be found, could he lead them to the missing linda. and to information about john sohus' killer? coming up -- the investigation shifts to the mysterious tenant in the guest house. he claimed to be a rich aristocrat, but he didn't live like one. >> if he's from all this nobility and wealth, why are you at a midrllonariog pero no prefers her coffee caffeine free prefers her paint fu h controlhormfree paragard® intrauterine contraceptive is the only reversible birth control that's both highly effective and hormone free. and because it's free of hormones, paragard® doesn't interfere with your natural cycle. don't use paragard® if you have a pelvic infection, get infections easily or have certain cancers. less than 1% of users get a serious infection called pelvic inflammatory disease. if you have persistent pelvic or stomach pain, or if paragard® comes out tell your healthcare provider in rare cases, paragard® may attach to or go through the uterine wall
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>> cut into three pieces. stored in plastic bags. >> reporter: detective tricia gough was helping the l.a. county sheriff's department try and figure out who had killed the shy computer programmer. one name stood out in the case file put together by detectives when john and his wife linda had first gone missing. >> he was one of the last people to have lived at the house. >> reporter: his name was christopher chichester. he was the tenant renting the guest house, a modern structure behind the main house where john and linda lived. what did your colleagues knew who had looked at the missing persons case? >> kind of a prissy kind of guy. the way he came across, he didn't seem to be that type of person who would have gone anything you would consider violent or nefarious. >> reporter: but now investigators decided to take another look at chichester. they fanned out across the neighborhood to find out what people remember. >> here is a young man who is well dressed, well spoken, fun and friendly. >> reporter: like so many others
in san marino, novelist meredith brucker had met chichester on the patio of church of our savior. the young englishman told her he was an aspiring film producer. she watched him ming well the well-heeled congregation after sunday services. >> he could talk about anything. he kind of knew how to push your buttons. >> reporter: you aren't saying that in a negative way. >> right. he was very interested in people. >> reporter: and people were very interested in him for their on his business card was a heraldic seal. he was none other than the 13th baronet of chichester. >> i just called him chichester because the name just seemed -- and he even laughed about it being pretentious. he was self-deprecating, he could laugh at himself. >> reporter: by day he told people he attended film classes at usc. you can see him for yourself acting in this student horror movie. by night, chichester could be found squiring rich widows to san marino social event,
regaling dinner guests with stories of his massive fortune. cori woods was just a child but chichester's stories had made quite an impression on her. >> he'd bought a castle in england and he wanted to ship it over here brick by brick. >> reporter: that's a fantastical story, though. >> and of course, we thought, well, that would be a great idea. >> reporter: pretty soon chichester had become the town's most eligible bachelor. >> my father introduced us. >> reporter: carol campbell was home from college when her father fixed her up with chichester on a date. >> so i assumed it was lunch, but instead we went on a series of errands, like to the post office. >> reporter: hardly the behavior she'd been expecting. carol couldn't understand what all the fuss was about, especially when he showed up in a junker of a car. >> if you profess to be from all this nobility and wealth, why you are driving this? it didn't add up. >> reporter: nine years on detective gough was skeptical, too. people around town who praised chichester to police investigating the missing
persons case, had a more jaded view of the young man now. the suave baronet had had dropped heavy hints about his fortune had rarely paid for anything. and come to think of it, had lived in relative squalor. >> i think i remember a little single bed pushed against the wall. it was horrible. i don't even think -- he'd have no kitchen that i know of. >> reporter: and there was something else a little bit off about the town's most eligible bachelor. cori woods wasn't even a teenager when 20-something chichester asked her to the movies. you were how old then? >> maybe 12. and my mom said a very definitive no. and then after that, you know, it got a little weird and he started asking other inappropriate girls out. >> reporter: not age appropriate. >> not age appropriate. >> reporter: in the meantime, investigators wondered whether chichester had been escorting rich widows around town with an eye on their money.
>> somehow he ended up in clubs in places where the wealthier members of san marino. >> reporter: church of our savior. >> right. where they would be socializing. so he does start coming across after a while as being kind of sneaky and manipulative. >> reporter: detective gough quickly established two facts about the fantastical chichester. the film student who watched hitchcock movies late into the night in the guest house had never been registered at usc, and he was no blue blood. there was no 13th baronet of chichester. was there a point when you were researching this guy and you said he's not just a phony, he's a 14 karat phony? >> oh, yeah. but you to be impressed. people bought it hook line and sinker. >> reporter: what about the tales he told to john and linda sohus when they were living so close together.
they wondered if he was after didi's modest savings too. >> you have these not worldly people and a master manipulator. >> reporter: always in that mix the scent of money. >> the assumption if you're in san marino, there's money somewhere. >> reporter: detective gough wasn't sure what to make of it. it was clear that investigators needed to find christopher chichester and fidnd out if he knew about john sohus' death. coming up -- the next clue on the trail of the phony aristocrat. >> we were able to grab one of the prints from there and finally have a fingerprint. >> he was using a new name, but what was his real identity?
skeleton had been unefrted in the backyard of his home not far from where his mother had been sitting. detective tricia gough was trying to build a profile of the mysterious man who had been living in the guest house at the time john died. what vision or image of him is forming in your mind? >> taking advantage of people, manipulative manipulative. i mean, the guy just shows up out of nowhere and is able to, you know, pretty much get free rent. >> reporter: but that didn't make him a murderer. what's more, the detective noted, chichester had continued to live in the guest house for months after john must have been killed. he'd even thrown parties there. that's pretty cold blooded if this is a murderer, isn't it? >> right. >> reporter: meredith brucker had been one of chichester's party guests. he'd invited her to play trivial pursuit in the backyard where john sohus' dismembered body would be found years later. >> when i looked around this yard, it was a big yard, totally unkempt, overgrown, ungardened, just a mess.
>> reporter: but she noticed something else that investigators would find interesting. chichester appeared to have the run of the place including the main house where john's mother didi lived. >> he said we're going to need soft drinks. let's go up to the front house. i said can you just go in there? oh, yeah, no problem. >> reporter: but it was what the detective learned next that convince heard that chichester just might know what happened to john and linda. it turns out that didi had told police the identity of her secret source spp she said the person who had filled her head with all the hush hush details about john and linda's mysterious government mission, the person who had reassured her that her son was alive, that all was well, was none other than christopher chichester. >> chichester has been telling her that he's in contact with them and for her not to contact or tell anybody, that all the information will come through him. >> reporter: and there was other evidence suggesting that chichester had been up to no good. one of his neighbors told detective gough about a smell coming from the guest house, a
smell he hadn't been able to forget in ten years. >> there had been something burning in the fireplace and it went on for a while and he went next door and said, whatever you're doing, can you knock it off? and chichester appeared to be pretty startled and said, oh, absolutely. >> reporter: what had chichester been burning? and why he had been so jumpy about it? nearly ten years on was there any physical evidence to sell investigators what chichester had been doing. they waited till 2:00 in the morning to spray the guest house with luminol, the chemical that glows when it comes in contact with blood. the results were chilling. >> it lit up like a christmas tree. there was the appearance of body fluids on the floor and on the walls. and there was an extensive amount. >> reporter: body fluids, most probably blood, had pooled on the floor of the guest house. detective gough speculated that chichester's attempts to clean it up had caused that smell that the neighbor had complained
about. >> maybe he sopped up the towels. maybe he was burning the carpet. >> reporter: now the detective had no doubt. >> i absolutely felt that chichester was involved. there can't be that many coincidence in a single case. >> reporter: tricia gough no longer thought that chichester was just a person with information about the case. she believed he was a murderer. but where was he now? he'd long since left town. >> he would show up out of the blue and just go sit by our pool. >> reporter: investigators tracked down a family who had known chichester throughout his time in san marino, a family who knew he'd been faking it all this time. >> he had to be himself here. he couldn't tell us he was royalty or whatever. >> reporter: because they knew who chichester really was. wayne's parents had first met him in germany when she'd been tourists in bavaria. far from being an english baronet, he was a german immigrant named christian gerhartsreiter. once in a while the young german would escape his life in san marino to spend time with them.
but he told investigators that their friend had seemed depressioned around the time that john and linda disappeared. >> he seemed very dejected. like it hasn't worked out. >> reporter: he told wayne that he was leaving town and heading east to become a stockbroker, but he left no forwarding address. it seemed like another dead end. or was it? investigators noticed a report tucked into the missing persons case file that confirmed that chichester had made to it the east coast. >> suddenly it surfaces in connecticut. >> reporter: three years after chichester had left san marino, he tried to sell linda and john's prize possession, their truck, in connecticut. it was a big mistake. >> so when it shows up and he's trying to sell it and the title on it's funny. >> reporter: the dmv reported chichester to the police and revealed something crucial. the identity that he'd been using when he tried to sell the truck. christopher krul, stockbroker. >> you have to take certain tests and so forth.
we were able to grab one of the prints from there. and that's how we were able to finally have a fingerprint. >> reporter: gough and her colleagues searched four krul, but no luck. still, having the con man's fingerprint on file meant that police had something tangible that could help identify him if he should surface down the road whatever identity or role he had now assumed he was in the system. but as quickly as things came together, it seemed the investigation fell apart. >> we had made so much progress in the beginning, you know, and finding the fingerprint and finding the different names. it was all starting to connect together and just stops. >> reporter: did it occur to you that this guy might be in the wind and we may never get him? >> he had been in the wind for a time. then his trail stopped. >> reporter: then before she knew it, tricia gough was off the case, promoted to sergeant. and her colleagues were distracted by another famous murder case. the years passed, but as time
went on, there was always someone out there pestering investigators, keeping the newlyweds' memory alive, linda's best friend, sue kaufman. >> they're just a mystery. there's some people out there that randomly had bad things happen to them. and it's never been -- it's never been dug into enough, i don't think. >> reporter: until the unexpected happened in the summer of 2008. a family drama playing out on a leafy boston street. one that would make headlines across the country and rouse the ghosts of linda sohus and her dead husband john. were investigators about to find out what had happened all those years ago? coming up -- >> when i saw in it the newspaper, i knew that was him. >> hiding in plain sight, chichester's astonishing new identity. >> the waiters would refer to him as mr. rockefeller. and how are you, mr. rockefeller? wasng my face. but sometimes i wonder... what's left behind? [ female announcer ] from neutrogena® naturals.
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i was shocked. absolutely shocked. >> reporter: tricia gough couldn't believe it. at long last the search was over. the face of the man who had eluded california homicide detectives for years was staring out from a morning newspaper. >> when i saw it in the newspaper, i knew that was him. >> reporter: but nearly 15 years aefr a bulldozer had disturbed john sohus' makeshift grave, investigators could barely believe that the man they knew as christopher chichester had been hiding and how he managed
to event and sustain his boldest persona yet. >> the waiters would refer to him as mr. rockefeller, and how are you mr. rock rockefeller? he had this air about him. >> reporter: it was when he met james rockefeller. one of those rockefellers who said he was worth $400 million. >> he paid for everything we did. i don't think i ever remember paying for anything. >> reporter: unlike his time slumming it in that san marino guest house, rockefeller, aka christopher chichester was living the high life and seemed to have the money to pay for it. it was fine dining at exclusive clubs, a priceless art collection hanging on his walls, or so he said. >> i was standing there looking at a painting he and came over and introduced himself to me. >> reporter: socialite roxane west met the fake rockefeller at cocktail hour at a posh art gallery. he charmed her like he had those rich widows years before.
>> so mild mannered and so soft spoken and very polite and a gentleman. >> reporter: and he asked for the socialite's phone number. when he texted her a few days later, rockefeller told roxane he was given a private tour of the met. it was the beginning of a text message relationship that was, by turns, fun, far out or flirty. i did want to tell you that i find you superbly -- never mind, rockefeller wrote. perhaps go to central park and kiss for an hour or so? and then a few days later, in a submarine, crowded, strange. thought of you just a minute ago. >> the texts were so wild and so far-fetched. i would just giggle and go where does he come up with this stuff? >> wherever he went, he met people, he circulated, he told lie after lie after lie ai after lie. >> reporter: reporter mark seal profiled those lies in his book "the man in the rockefeller suit".
>> he's proof that no matter what you say, you know, if it's wrapped in a famous name people tend to believe it. >> reporter: the most important believer, rockefeller's wife of 12 years. sophisticated, harvard educated sandra boss. after their daughter was born, the con man segtsttled into the perfect cover, the devoted family man in boston's beacon hill. >> he always had a smile. always, you know, chipper and cheery and isn't the world lovely? >> reporter: amy patt became friends with rockefeller at the school bus stop. a couple of loving parents. rockefeller, a stay at home dad to his little girl. >> i saw clark as a doting father. he would carry her on his shoulders. he would gloat about how smart she was. >> reporter: here was one relationship that the con man wasn't faking, but that relationship was torn away from him when his wife announced she was divorcing him. >> his whole life was turned upside down. >> reporter: sandra boss moved
to london and took their daughter with her. rockefeller was devastated when a judge ruled that he could only have three supervised visits a year with a daughter he adored. >> he would say things like, i think i'm just going to get on a boat and go away and, you know, never come back. >> reporter: what amy didn't know was that rockefeller had a special talent for disappearing. but this time he would be taking someone with him. and that would ultimately be his undoing. july 27th, 2008, a sultry afternoon in boston's back bay. it was one of rockefeller's supervised visits with his daughter since she moved to london. as they walked to lunch he suddenly shoved her into a waiting getaway car. father and daughter. >> she's been kid napd by her father. >> reporter: within minutes the girl's mother was notified and
rushed to the scene. she told police she had no idea where to start looking for her ex-husband because during the divorce proceeding she found something that shocked her. everything he told her about himself had been a lie, everything. she didn't even know his real name. >> they put the photo out right away and got the amber alert started immediately. >> reporter: he bet that someone somewhere would recognize the kidnapper. his face flashed across tv screens nationwide. >> people here who saw the picture said that's christopher chichester. >> reporter: was rockefeller the boston kidnapper really chichester the california murder suspect? there was one way for investigators to make the connection. those fingerprints that detective tricia gough had tracked down from chichester's days as a stock broker because it turned out that clark rockefeller, so claflareful had left behind prints from his high
living boston days. >> a wine glass left at an acquaintance's house. we were able to lift prints. >> reporter: first a match, now police knew for sure that rockefeller and chichester were the same person. what feelings were stirred up for you when that happened? >> i was elated. hoping to find justice for john. >> reporter: before that, police had to capture a man skilled enough to elude law enforcement for 20 years, skills that had sue kaufman, the best one of one of his possible victims, frustrated. >> they told me every time we find him, we're a day behind him. he just skipped town, then he disappears again. coming up -- a con man cornered. >> i can fairly certainly say that i've never hurt anyone. >> now, new evidence that could put him on trial for murder. >> and the wife says, chris, there's a blood stain on this
rug. and he rolls it up immediately and takes off. and coming up next friday on "dateline" -- inside a stylish apartment house. tenants living in harmony, until murder rocked the building. >> she told me he's dead. wow. >> an investigation hitting uncomfortably close to home. >> he says he's my neighbor. he lives two floors below. >> her husband charged. >> having someone just taken away. >> but was the right neighbor under arrest? >> there were so many parts of the puzzle that were not adding up. [ male announcer ] scrubbologists have made a remarkable leap forward in hands-free toilet cleaning. introducing the one-step toilet bowl cleaner from scrubbing bubbles.
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days after he snatched his daughter off a boston street, police were finally closing in. >> we were looking at this now as a person who may be a homicide/suicide situation. we didn't know what could transpire. >> reporter: but then a lucky break. a tip from baltimore pinpointing the phony rockefeller's hideout. a carriage house where they arrested him, found his daughter playing with her dolls. police gave her mother the good news. >> she just fainted. she fainted dead away. >> reporter: across the country in california, tricia gough, now retired from the police department, watched rockefeller's arrest with one hope -- that the con man would finally reveal what he knew about john and linda sohus. >> we also knew that this guy was very intelligent and he probably would not talk. >> reporter: and she was right. rockefeller turned california investigators away at his cell door, but he did agree to talk to nbc's natalie morales in
august, 2008, just a few weeks after his arrest. >> are you a mystery man? >> i'd like to be known as a good man, if anything. i'd like to be known as a quiet man living a quiet life. >> reporter: rockefeller admitted that he had used fake names in his life, christopher chichester one of them, he said. but when it came to the sohus investigation, his attorney did most of the talking. >> reporter: did your client know john and linda sohus? >> yeah, there's no dispute he lived there in the place. many people lived there. >> reporter: as christopher chichester? >> yeah, many people put him there. >> reporter: did you kill john and linda sohus? >> my entire life, i've always been a papacifist. i'm a quaker and i believe in nonviolence. and i can fairly certainly say that i've never hurt anybody. >> reporter: that's all he had to say about the sohuses while he was in jail. he remained equally tight lipped on his trial on parental kidnapping charges.
>> the defendant is guilty of offenses charged. >> reporter: just this week, he was back in court. >> mr. gerhartsreiter. >> reporter: but this time in california, this time accused of murder. a team of detective from the los angeles sheriff's department dug up enough new evidence for a judge to decide whether the man still calling himself clark rockefeller should stand trial for killing john sohus. he's pleaded not guilty. the judge allowed our cameras into the hearing but would not let us broadcast any witness testimony. still, it was a first glimpse at a case. front and center, the crime scene photos. the forensic pathologist said look at john's skull, fractured in three places. >> the inference is that john was struck three times in the head with a blunt object that appeared to be rounded like a baseball bat. >> reporter: that skull and the rest of john's skeleton had been found in plastic bags, witnesses testified. but it was one bag in particular that the prosecution argued
could be a possible clue to the killer's identity. >> talk about a huge piece of evidence and one that's going to be really hard for his defense to overcome. >> reporter: it was a small plastic book bag with the university of wisconsin logo. rockefeller had briefly been a student there. >> there's a book bag at this crime scene in california 1500 miles away from that very same place. >> reporter: the prosecution then presented witnesses who remembered suspicious details from all those years ago. a neighbor who says he lent the defendant a chain saw. had it been used to cut the body to pieces? and this man, a friend from bible study group who said the con man had tried to sell him and his wife a blood stained rug before he left town. >> and the wife says, chris, there's a blood stain on this rug. and he rolls it up immediately and says, never mind and takes off. >> reporter: but it was this petite, respectable looking woman, an ex-fiancee who reveals something detectives had never known before. the defendant's panic when he
knew police were on to him. back when he tried to sell the truck in connecticut and his reaction had been dramatic. he'd gone to ground for years, his ex testified. had dyed his hair blond and swapped his trademark glasses for contacts. he lived like a hunted man. rockefeller's defense attorneys jeffrey denner and brad bailey say he's innocent. the prosecution's case is circumstantial and full of holes. >> we didn't see anything that we would describe as a smoking gun. >> reporter: in court they suggested that there was no proof that john sohus had been bludgeoned to death. they say the bobcats digging that swimming pool could have easily crushed the buried skull. >> how is your memory in general? >> reporter: the defense questioned the reliability of witnesses describing events decades old. >> people who had relevant things to say years and years ago perhaps are dead. and if they're not dead, a lot of times their memories fade. >> reporter: just as susceptible
to the passage of time, they argued, was the physical evidence. there was no doubt there had been blood found in the guest house, but who's blood? then there was linda and the whiff of a suggestion from the defense that she and not their client could have had a hand in whatever happened to john. >> certainly the absence of linda -- >> reporter: is huge. >> is a big hole in the case. if you're the defense, you're looking at linda as, hey, where is she? why isn't she possible responsible for, you know, for having done this? >> reporter: investigators have returned to the backyard in 2008 with cadaver dogs and season or devices looking for linda's body, but it wasn't there. you believe that she's still alive? >> i do. >> reporter: detective gough isn't privy to everything investigators know, but from her months on the case she thinks linda survived whatever happened in the guest house the night of john's murder and might even have been involved. >> maybe she wanted out of that
marriage and the plan that chichester had gave her an opportunity. >> reporter: she points to those postcards sent from paris months after john's body was in the ground, postcards that seem to have been written by linda. there have been several claimed sightings of linda since she disappeared. >> there's a woman sitting in a midsized truck. >> reporter: wayne kelm, son of the sweet couple that knew rockefeller's real identity said he saw both rockefeller and a woim he thinks was linda at a truck parked at his parents' house. >> she looked me right in the eye and her eyes were blotchy red all around. you could tell she'd been crying, crying hard. >> reporter: wayne says this happened some time after john and linda disappeared. >> linda sohus is everything in this case. the story of this case, whichever way it goes, will depend on whether or not somebody on either side of that counsel table can piece together a plausible scenario that fits the facts. >> reporter: after five days of
testimony, a judge made his ruling. >> there's sufficient cause to believe -- >> reporter: he ordered rockefeller to be held on $10 million bail. he's expected to be tried later this year. but sue kaufman is beginning to think that even after a trial, she may never know what actually happened to linda, that artist with the outsized imagination and dreams. her best friend. >> i hold on to all the times i ever saw her. all the pictures that i scrapbooked with her thinking that maybe some day when she's in her 60s, we can sit and laugh about this. but i don't think that's going to happen. that's all for this edition of "dateline." we'll see you again next friday at 10:00, 9:00 central time. i'm lester holt. -- captions by vitac -- www.vitac.com breaking news at 11:00. the life cut short. a